Published in Décor & Style Magazine
The Merry Month of May… brings us hypocrisy and ‘funkalosophy,’ guys, dolls, sex farce and Shakespeare sonnets. Old plays and new, musicals and comedies, dance, drama and an actors’ showcase. Who could ask for anything more? Spring has definitely sprung on local stages.
On the musical front, one of the best ever is “Guys and Dolls,” with its spectacular score by Frank Loesser and hilarious book by Abe Burrows. In this so-called “Musical Fable of Broadway,” the high-minded lowlifes and spunky do-gooders of Damon Runyon’s world come colorfully alive in characters like Sky Masterson, the bet-on-anything gambler; the uptight Sarah Brown of the Save-a-Soul Mission; Adelaide, the perpetually sniveling Hot Box girl; and Nathan Detroit, eternally harried organizer of ‘the oldest established permanent floating crap game in New York.’ The lines are still uproarious, and the songs are heavenly: “Luck Be a Lady,” “I’ve Never Been in Love Before,” “I’ll Know,” “A Bushel and a Peck,” “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat.” The touring production stars celebrated hoofer and Tony Award nominee Maurice Hines as the irrepressible Nathan Detroit. (Broadway/San Diego at the Civic Theatre, 5/28-6/2; 619-570-1100).
Another classic set in the sometimes inhospitable urban landscape of New York is Michael V. Gazzo’s 1955 “A Hatful of Rain,” which made a fine film in 1957, starring Eva Marie Saint and Tony Franciosa, who was also in the original Broadway cast. He and fellow stars Shelley Winters and Ben Gazzara were alumni of the famous Actors Studio. Now we’ve got the West Coast branch here. Founders of the exciting new North County theater company, New Village Arts, husband-and-wife team Francis Gercke and Kristiane Kurner are also Actors Studio alums. They made a major splash last year in their premiere production, “Brilliant Traces,” and their high intensity should electrify this venture as well. They’ll be joined by a cast of fresh and familiar faces, to present this gut-wrenching drama about testing the limits of love, compassion and desire. Love appears in the guise of brotherly co-dependence, filial devotion, spousal commitment, incestuous attraction and the most destructive temptation of all — drugs. One Lower East Side family has it all — and struggles to survive. (5/23-6/9; 760-439-3784).
Love takes a decidedly different turn in “An Infinite Ache,” by David Schulner. The West Coast premiere at the Globe Theatres introduces us to Hope and Charles, a pair of lonely twenty-somethings about to end a supremely uninteresting first date. But just as they say goodnight, the possibilities of their futures and a life together overwhelm them. The play is an intimate portrait of a couple’s whole life together — from first encounter onward. Directed by Brendon Fox, whose delicate, heartfelt production of “The Countess” brought another (far more dysfunctional) marriage to the Globe last year. (5/25-6/30 at the Globe Theatres; 619-239-2255).
The redemption of love is the theme of the classic 1843 Wagner opera, “The Flying Dutchman,” which sails into the Civic Theatre with the San Diego Opera. World-renowned American baritone Robert Hale assumes the title role of the cursed captain who’s doomed to sail the seas forever. He is given one day every seven years when he can set foot on land and seek salvation — in a woman’s true love. Taking shelter during a storm, he meets the Norwegian sea captain whose daughter is sure she’s the one to rescue the mysterious Dutchman. Salvation comes at the end, but at a very high price. (May11-22 at the Civic Theatre; 619-232-7636).
Still more on love (it may not conquer all, but it never stops trying). A wildly varied look at relationships comes to us via a bevy of acclaimed playwrights and their multiple takes on Shakespeare’s sonnets. In the full version of “Love’s Fire,” the sonnets come to life, inspiration for seven renowned playwrights. This local remounting is scaled down to four startlingly original pieces by Tony Kushner, John Guare, Marsha Norman and Eric Bogosian. This provocative and daunting evening of one-acts is presented by the Stone Soup Theatre Company, in co-production with La Jolla Stage Company. Once again, the fledgling Stone Soupers have taken on an enormous challenge; their haunting premiere production, “Death and the Maiden,” was no simple start, but it was a winner. As director Esther Emery explains the current endeavor, “the theatricalization of the sonnets represents a clash between the poetic form in which the concepts of love and betrayal can be admired at a distance for the structural beauty… and the active, dirty-words, smell-the-sex theatrical form, in which we can hold nothing at a distance.” Enter at your own risk. (5/24-6/16 at La Jolla Stage Company; 619-807-5619).
Now, if you really want to get funky, get in the hip-hop groove with “Funkalosophy.” Eveoke Dance Theater artistic director Gina Angelique describes it as the philosophy of hip-hop culture, “a new vision capable of cultivating compassionate social action.” The show mixes modern dance moves with urban hip-hop. Prepare yourself for a political awakening, communicated through slap-tap, pop-locking, breaking and street funk. Choreographed by force-of-nature Angelique and gifted dancer Ericka Moore, “Funkalosophy” uses chain link fences to create a political/social metaphor in a 90-minute journey “from youthful complacency to apathy to urban revolution.” Integrating themes of separation, misogyny, ignorance and lack of sensitivity, the Eveoke Youth Performing Group uses hip-hop music and dance to illuminate inner-city social struggles. (5/3-26, at the Eveoke Studio Theatre downtown; 619-238-1153).
The young members of Eveoke are unequivocally committed, dedicated, honest and genuine. And then there are the hypocrites of the world. And when it comes to hypocrites, Tartuffe wrote the book. Well, actually Molière did, in 1664. His witty, comic classic tells the tale of “Tartuffe,” the religious reprobate who worms his way into the household and heart of Orgon, a credulous fool who deeds all his property to the impostor, and even intends to marry his daughter to the rascal. In French, the word tartuffe has come to mean religious hypocrite. But that only came long after the play was twice suppressed before it could be performed. The La Jolla Playhouse mounts it with free will and abandon, with artistic director Des McAnuff taking his first crack at the Molière. And he’s doing it with a crackerjack cast, headed by knockout UCSD alum Jefferson Mays, a magnificent actor who wowed Playhouse audiences last year in the delicious, cross-dressing work-in-progress, “I Am My Own Wife.” This collaboration promises Great Things. Put it in the Not To Be Missed category for spring. (5/19-6/6 at La Jolla Playhouse, 858-550-1010).
From La Jolla head Down South to the Fritz for a cheerfully bawdy satire. Doug Field’s “Down South” was a big hit Off Broadway, with its run extended four times. The New York Times called it “an irresistibly silly… orgiastic farce.” It’s a riotous, raunchy, spouse-swapping, door-slamming comedy that focuses on sex, gender politics and the Cuban missile crisis. Set in 1962, the wild, wacky send-up concerns a wife, dissatisfied with her husband’s prudishness, who discovers some less-than-subtle ways to convince him to be more attentive. According to Fritz Theater folks, the piece looks something like what would ensue “if John Waters had written and directed ‘Leave it to Beaver.'” (5/5-6/2, The Fritz at 6th@ Penn Theatre; 619-233-7505).
From the wild and woolly to the classic and contemporary, the 12th annual Actors Festival has it all. This year’s offerings include seven unique theater programs (28 plays featuring 80 San Diego actors), each program presented twice during the two-week event. This is “guerrilla theater at its most charming,” an adventure in new works and new roles — actors trying their hands as writers, directors, designers. There’s always a rare and unexpected find (and home-made Killer Cookies to boot!). There’s also a special “Kids’ Night Out” program that includes the touring show “Theatrical Fantastical,” the humorous “Space Cadet” and the mime and puppetry of “Imagination Express.” These youth-friendly presentations (May 11 and May 17) are free to students under 18. The festival is produced by the Actors Alliance of San Diego; it’s a local showcase — and a real steal (only $12.50/ticket). [5/7-19 at St. Cecilia’s Playhouse; 619-640-3900].
Speaking of spotlighting local talent, Asian American Repertory Theatre presents “The Goddess of Flowers,” by published San Diego playwright Thelma Virata De Castro. The piece tells the story of Flora, the valedictorian of her high school graduating class. Her plans to become an engineer are interrupted by her dreams, which are haunted by the vision of a flying man. She resorts to drastic action to take control of her life and regain her freedom. AART’s multitalented founding artistic director/actor/producer/designer Andy Lowe directs. (5/11-6/9 at the McDonald Mori Performing Arts Center in South Park; 888-568-2278).
New plays are nice, but classics are forever… so, Go Greek! There’s still time to catch some of the “Seven Weeks of Greeks: The Tragedies,” read by some of San Diego’s finest actors. 2500 years after they first appeared onstage, these works still seem fresh and relevant. Check out the source of your Oedipus Complex in “Oedipus the King” (5/13) and “Oedipus at Colonus” (5/23), both at 6th@ Penn Theatre (619-688-9210).
And don’t forget, half-price tickets to many of these productions are now available online. Times Arts Tix, a service of the San Diego Performing Arts League, has sold over a half million tickets at its walk-up location in Horton Plaza. Now, in a unique partnership with Ticketmaster, the League makes getting cheaper tickets a whole lot easier. Log on to www.sandiegoperforms.com and click on E-Tix Today to register. The daily list of half-price shows is available via email.
Going to the theater just got a whole lot easier (and cheaper!). I hope to see you there!
©2002 Patté Productions Inc.